The Government's announcement on 25 May 2023 of a £650m funding package titled 'Life Sci for Growth' was a significant statement of intent in respect of its commitment to the sector.
Earlier this month (5 September 2023), it announced that £5.5m of that funding will be applied to establishing a Medicines Manufacturing Skills Centre of Excellence.
Innovate UK's Role
The competition for businesses seeking funding through the Centre of Excellence will be administered by Innovate UK and will officially open on 26 September 2023.
Innovate UK is the UK's national innovation agency and offers other funding initiatives through its 'Transforming Medicines Manufacturing' programme.
The establishment of a Centre of Excellence seeks to achieve one of the ten key actions set out in the Government's Science and Technology Framework (the Framework).
These have been identified as the steps most likely to benefit the health and life sciences sector and to improve the regulatory landscape for those sectors in the UK, and the Government's aim is to implement them by 2030.
Building a Skilled Workforce
An agile and responsive skills system is one which is able to forecast skills gaps in critical technologies (academia, industry, Government and the third sector) and the actions which are required to fill these gaps, resulting in a world-class workforce within the STEM sectors which can respond to future health emergencies.
The Centre of Excellence is intended to build on existing infrastructure and best practices to deliver sustainable end-to-end training provision.
As part of this strategy, the UK must maintain its current competitiveness in the ongoing global competition to attract international talent; the UK is home to 4 of the world's top 10 universities and offers a 'high-skilled visa system' aimed to facilitate entry into the UK.
Investments in the Life Sciences Sector
Life Sci for Growth is one of four pots which are intended to provide a boost to the Life Sciences sector; the Government has also announced a £20m Medicines and Diagnostics Manufacturing Transformation Fund, a £60m Life Sciences Innovative Manufacturing Fund and most recently, a £38m Biomanufacturing Fund.
Life Sci for Growth, as the largest funding package, is multifaceted.
In addition to the funding, the Government announced details for its planned reforms and launches and published guidance, reports and responses.
Challenges for SMEs
It can often be challenging for SMEs to access the NHS market, as attempting to introduce innovative products requires rigorous testing and clinical trials before these can be adopted.
In an effort to reduce the regulatory burden of approving clinical trials, in order to bring new healthcare products onto the market and to patients more quickly, the Government has committed £121m of the fund towards improving commercial clinical trials and improving access to real-time data via new Clinical Trial Acceleration Frameworks.
We expect further detail with respect to the Centre of Excellence (and the application process for businesses interested in obtaining funding) to be published by Innovate UK in the run-up to the official launch, but for the time being, the Government's announcement describes its aims in committing to investing in the UK's Life Sciences sector.
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